I’ve lived in Maryland for the majority of my life, and oddly never heard of MAGFest, a Washington D.C. based expo of all things music and gaming. Oddly enough, I learned about it when I met the festival’s music director Dominic Cerquetti while I was working at an Apple Store last year. After getting his card, I looked into the magnificent east coast treasure that Dominic helps to develop each year.
For the second year, the expo returned to the beautiful Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center, a massive water front facility just 45-minutes from my home. For over a decade, MAGFest has been bringing gaming goodness to the masses, offering everything from obscure arcade cabinets, to table and card games, to live performances by gaming DJs and metal bands. Acts like The Megas, Powerglove, and Protomen energized the thousands of fanboys during the festival — the event runs for four days straight, 24-hours per day of nonstop action, with closing ceremonies scheduled for this afternoon. The lowest level of the convention center features a giant arcade, equipped with everything from Ms. Pac-Man, to Moon Patrol, to racing games like OutRunners. DanceDance Revolution battles take place along one area, while retro enthusiasts try not to drool over their favorites pinball classics from yesteryear.
As you go up the stairs of the venue, rooms throughout are setup for different events. You’ve got Street Fighter tournaments, Smash Bros. battles, and a screening of a Sonic The Hedgehog fan-film. There were appearances by Brentalfloss, and James Rolfe, also known as The Angry Video Game Nerd. Another room was setup for artists and Etsy-esque vendors to show off and sell their geektastic t-shirts, keychains, perler beads, or used games and accessories. And the cosplay, incase you were wondering, was top-notched. From drunk Mega Man, to a Ghostbuster, to a trumpet-playing Link, all areas were covered. Even Michael Jackson made an appearance, staying relevant after his death by dancing to “Gangnam Style.” Altogether, it kind of feels like you went on Tumblr, searched “otaku,” and the result is everything around you.
This was my first year attending MAGFest, and I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. It was truly overwhelming just how many people were there. The halls of the Gaylord were packed with gamers and cosplayers, likely confusing the hotel guests unaware of this weekend’s festivities. I spent the majority of my time in the arcade, throwing down on some classics, as well as some titles I don’t remember growing up, like Tron Discs, and Super Mario Bros. pinball. The crafty vendor section was also a dream to walk through. Standout artists shined, like Donna Miller with her hand-painted acrylics of 8-bit pixel heroes, or Maximo V. Lorenzo’s beautifully drawn Mega Man artwork.
It’s easy to see why MAGFest has been such a success, offering a weekend of incredible entertainment at a fairly low price. What’s pretty remarkable is that fans are supplying more than half of the entertainment. It’s truly a community event with no agenda other than providing a great venue for fans to show up and have fun. If you’ve got a few bucks to spend and you’re near the Washington D.C. area, MAGFest is sort of a no-brainer. There’s plenty to do and plenty to see to make it worth every penny. If you didn’t attend, hopefully you can make it out next year, where we can all meet up, and play games, and dress up. I call dibs on Captain Planet!